Prevention and Wellness

Allergies in the family: Unequal distribution

Planning a weekend somewhere on the island with the whole Pabón family was an impossible mission. Breathing the pure air of El Yunque sounds great, but it could have been disastrous for Doña Aida and Lucho, the youngest kid. They have terrible asthma and allergies. Fungi, pollen and humidity kept them home again. Out of pity, the two older girls and Don Ricardo missed another day out again. It seems like an unsolved mystery: why are some allergic and others not?

Erratic allergies or a genetic mystery
We carry flavor in our blood, but our Puerto Rican genetics also predispose us to suffer from allergies. Studies confirm that Puerto Ricans are much more likely to suffer from asthma than other populations. Even so, not everyone is allergic.

The reasons:

  • Allergies are not inherited. But predisposition to develop allergies and asthma is inherited.
  • Symptoms of allergies can arise at any age and at any time. Even after 40 years, a person can start suffering from asthma because of exposure to fungal spores.
  • Each family member has a particular immune system that responds differently to allergy triggers, such as fungi.
  • If in a family both parents are allergic, there is a high probability that their children will develop allergies.
  • If only one parent is allergic, the likelihood of having allergic children is remarkably low.

If Don Ricardo were allergic to mushrooms like his wife, perhaps all the Pabón children would be allergic. But this is not always the case. Many people also show allergy-related symptoms, such as asthma, but no one person in their families has ever been allergic. Little by little, science is solving these mysteries of genetics.

Much more than fungi: other allergy triggers
Dust from the Sahara desert, fungal spores and dust mites, combined with the humidity of the Antilles. This environmental combination joins the Puerto Rican’s genetic predisposition to develop allergies, often in the form of asthma and rhinitis. But our geographical location is not solely responsible for allergies.

What can cause allergies?

  • Medicine
  • Dust
  • Food
  • Insect venom
  • Fungi
  • Dander from pets and other animals
  • Pollen
  • Extreme heat or cold
  • Sunlight
  • Friction of certain objects with the skin

Reactions to these and other allergens can range from very mild, like an itch, to very severe, including anaphylaxis, which can lead to death. The best way to reduce allergy symptoms is to avoid contact with any element that causes it. In this category, food and medicines are considered particularly dangerous.

Allergies in your family? Recommendations
If you are part of a family in which several members suffer from allergies or asthma except you, it’s too soon to cry victory. It’s true that you may never suffer an asthma attack or other allergic reactions, but there is no certainty.

Therefore, we recommend:

  • Watching any allergic reactions carefully. They can occur at any time, at any age, and in response to any allergen.
  • If you have had at least a mild reaction associated with allergies, consider visiting an allergist.